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1  Primary Message Board / Primary Board / Re: lost three children to separate accidents on: July 09, 2015, 12:23:59 AM
To those of you who have had multiple losses, I would love to send you as my gift our amazing and beautiful documentary film, Portraits of Hope: The Parent's Journey. On it, you will meet a family who also had multiple losses and what has worked for them over the last 30 years. There is also a lot of beautiful, helpful, and inspirational messages on the film for you. If you would like to receive a free copy, just email me directly at hope@griefHaven.org.

My heart aches for all of us who find ourselves on the long and windy journey of creating new lives without our children here. Together we can make it...

Love and hugs, Erika's Mom, Susan Whitmore, Founder & President of griefHaven
2  Primary Message Board / Primary Board / Vanilla Milk - An Incredible Memoir Written In Poetry About the Death Of A Child on: July 09, 2015, 12:17:58 AM
Hi Everyone. Susan Whitmore here, founder and president of griefHaven and Erika's mom. Although our next newsletter is going out tomorrow and we are recommending this book in it, I wanted to share with you here (in case you aren't on our mailing list to receive our newsletters) about one of the most extraordinary books about the death of a child I've ever written (and THAT is saying a lot, since I have read hundreds of books). Chanel Brenner lost her son, Riley, and after his death, with no poetry training at all, she began writing...and writing...and writing. What came of it is the extraordinary and beautiful book of poetry, Vanilla Milk.

I/we highly recommend you check out this book. I have read it four times. It only takes 20 to 30 minutes to go through all of the poetry, but Chanel speaks to our hearts, and each poem will resonate deeply with all of you. You can look into it at Amazon.com.

LAST: PLEASE get on our mailing list if you aren't already. I am worried about you missing important announcements, invitations, and much more. You can just go to the home page of our website and click on "mailing list" or "packet of hope." Sending you all much love.

Take care of each other. We'll be checking in with you regularly! Love and hugs, Erika's Mom, Susan
3  Primary Message Board / Primary Board / Re: Single mom, lost only child on: January 30, 2015, 05:43:43 PM
Hi. These days I don't get to visit all of you who are sharing with one another because I am so busy do all of the things that need to be done making griefHaven continue forward as that fast moving train that it has become. But I miss reading all of your beautiful postings and the immense love you give to one another.

This subject of losing an only child is a big one, and not one easily discussed, since all parents want to try and protect others who are grieving from feeling hurt by what they say or from feeling that we are minimizing their pain, even though they have several children. Of course, that is not the point when we talk about the truths and realities surrounding those of us who have no children left in this world.

Anyway, I love that this subject continues to "live," and that you all are continuing to share with each other. Just know that even though you don't see it, we are working 24/7 behind the scenes (and sometimes in front, too) to provide you with everything and anything we can create that might help you.

With love and hugs,
Susan Whitmore, Erika's Mom
4  Primary Message Board / Primary Board / Loss Of Only Child - A Message From griefHaven on: October 10, 2014, 07:04:08 PM
Hello everyone. Susan Whitmore, founder and president of griefHaven, and Erika's mom, here.

I just posted a response to "Lost Only Child," sharing a document we give to parents who lose an only child. I decided to post this document as a separate, stand-alone posting, so that it might be picked up by others who need to better understand the various dynamics of losing an only child.

One loss is not worse than the other:

Be sure to read the document below so you understand that we are not saying that losing an only child is worse than other losses. Of course not! We do not and would never compare losses like that. We know that, whether you have ten children and one died or you lost your only child, the grief journey is equally as gut-wrenching and difficult for everyone. And often people will say to me that having other children made it so much harder for them to grieve openly and organically because they had to protect their other children or they had to make sure the other children were taken care of. That is also very true! So let's not compare in that way and see what differences there are for those who have no children left in this world.

For those who lost an only child, here is what we have to share with you--that we understand the differences in your journey without any remaining children and simply want you, as parents with no other children to love each day in this world, to better understand your personal journeys.

Here is that document copied and pasted, since we cannot "attach" a file.

Loss of An Only Child

   One of the questions that often arises in our work is whether or not the way one child died over another is worse, and this is a valid question.  For instance, we might be asked whether being with a child who suffered from cancer for a year and then died in the presence of her parents was worse for the parents than those who never got to say goodbye or see their child again because he died in a car accident.  Our answer is always the same--that regardless of how a child dies, the end result for those parents is the same--they are grieving, and they will never see their beloved child again.  Of course the memories parents are left with and have to learn to live with are different, depending upon how that child died.

   So although we typically avoid doing comparisons, we do feel it is appropriate for us to approach the subject of losing an only child.  The loss of an only child is neither greater nor less than the loss of one of many children; however, the loss of an only child is experienced differently.  It is different because you lose your parenthood, which is such a large part of the life of any parent.

   Because this is something rarely talked about in grief groups and in books, we decided to put together a brief overview of those things that impact your life as a parent who has lost an only child so you may better understand your feelings and reactions and how you might approach and handle some of these issues.  For instance, we mention below that the death of an only child highlights the issue of where parents will now leave their heirlooms.  For many parents in this situation, they have decided to leave their heirlooms to a charity, a beloved niece or nephew, or even a dear friend who has stood by them throughout their lives.  That is just one example.  Our intention is not to indicate in any way that somehow the death of an only child is worse than someone else's; rather, we want you to know that, in fact, there are differences and, once some of those are brought to your attention, you will have the choice how to handle them.

   The death of your child exposes you to the most intense, complicated, and long-lasting grief known to humans. The loss is unlike any other, particularly because of the unique aspects of the parent-child relationship, the unrealistic social expectations that accompany it, and the fact that it often robs you of your most important source of support by affecting your spouse as well. Unfortunately, most people fail to see its critical differences from other losses and don’t understand that what is abnormal in those cases may be quite typical in the parental loss of a child.

   As a parent who loses an only child, you face the same issues as any grieving  parent, but you must do so in a vacuum of the parental role that is taken away with the death of the one child you had.

    When you lose an only child, your parental responsibilities end, as well as your parental gratifications. Even if you lose an adult child, this is true, for we never stop being the "parent" of our child, regardless of his or her age.  You must then contend with the total absence of your "former identity" as a parent. This can be tremendously disorganizing, confusing, and demoralizing.  You may even wonder whether or not you can or should still call yourself a parent.

   In addition, you may wonder to whom you will pass on your name and your heirlooms. There is no biological continuation of yourself, and your immortality has been taken away. You may never be a grandparent. There are no other children for whom you can make a pretense of the holidays, and there is no child for whom you can say, "I must go on for my child's sake."  Questions arise about who will take care of you as you get old and who will come to you on the holidays. These are just a few examples, and here is a list of others.
   
   1. With the death of an only child, you lose the one person who could use all of the love you had to give every day.

       a. One of the beautiful aspects of parenthood is that from birth, children
          teach us that we have a greater capacity for unselfish love than we
          thought possible. Parents often say that it was their child who taught
          them how to love.
       b. When your only child dies, you may feel that you are drowning in the
          parental love your heart continues to generate for the child you have
          lost, with no new avenue with which to pour that love. Sometimes parents
                   say that they feel as if the love they used to give to their child has no meaningful outlet.
                c. Simply put, there is no left to call you "Mommy" or "Mom."

   2. With the death of an only child, you lose so much of your own future that was tied to your child's future.

      a.   The first day of school
      b.   Sports
      c.   Learning to drive
      d.   A first crush, a first date, a first heartbreak
      e.   High school
      f.   College
      g.   Career
      h.   Marriage
      i.   Grandchildren, great grandchildren
      j.   Moving close to your child during retirement years

   3. With the death of an only child, you suffer many tiny losses that cause pain only another parent in your shoes can comprehend.

      a.   You have lost the joy of checking the cereal aisle to see if Cocoa Puffs is on sale.
      b.   You have lost the reason to keep up with the top ten hits on the pop
          music charts.
      c.    You have lost the joy of caring what prize is in a box of Cracker
         Jacks.
      d.   You have lost the joy of getting up early on a Saturday morning for soccer, basketball, dance lessons, or exercise.
      e.   You have lost the reason to decorate for the holidays.
      f.   You have lost the person who thought you made the best cookies
         in the world, even though you didn't.
      g.   You may have not only lost your child, but the person you also
         considered to be your best friend. 
      h.   You have lost the reason to plan that "family" vacation.

   This is just a brief list, and we would love to hear from you regarding whatever you would like us to add to this list so that we continue to help others (please do that by writing to hope@griefHaven.org).  Please know that it is our stand that, regardless of the fact that you have lost your only child, you are and forever will be your child's parent.  Nothing changes that fact, even though you no longer need to care for and nurture your child in the ways you used to.  "If once a parent, always a parent."

   We are so sorry that this has happened to all of you and indelibly impacted your lives.  We are here for you, walking this journey alongside you in every way we can, and want you to know you are not alone.  We care.

A special thank you to all of the organizations and resources we used to put this compilation together,
5  Primary Message Board / Primary Board / Re: Single mom, lost only child on: October 10, 2014, 06:53:07 PM
Dear Parents,

I am Susan Whitmore, founder and president of griefHaven, and also lost my only child, Erika. I have put together a document that I thought might be address some of the issues of losing an only child. Since I can't attach the actual document, I have copied and dropped it below.

You know, just Tuesday of this week we had our big fundraising event with Kim Goldman (Ron Goldman's sister) as our featured speaker and Marc Klaas as the MC (Polly Klaas' father). One of the speakers was also our former mayor, Richard Riordan. He had five children and lost two of them. In his speech he talked about how sorry he felt for me when he heard that my husband and I had lost our only child. He said, "Genie and I still had three children to raise, to love us, to be there for us and we for them. When I heard Susan and Wendell had lost their only child...well, that broke my heart."

For me, it's not being anyone's mom anymore, even though I always talk about how we are ALWAYS their parents now and forever more. Yet what I mean is what you know--no one calling us mom, no one to mother, etc. It's so difficult. And with all of my years and years of working with thousands of parents all over the world, I have come to know that, regardless of how the child died and how many other children a parent has, the grief journey and pain is the same. What IS different with how they died are the memories with which we have to learn how to live. And what is different in the aftermath and years to follow is just what I mentioned above: sometimes no grandchildren, as is our case, and having no other children to mother.

Sending my love to you all. Please continue holding each other up. We need one another.

Loss of An Only Child

   One of the questions that often arises in our work is whether or not the way one child died over another is worse, and this is a valid question.  For instance, we might be asked whether being with a child who suffered from cancer for a year and then died in the presence of her parents was worse for the parents than those who never got to say goodbye or see their child again because he died in a car accident.  Our answer is always the same--that regardless of how a child dies, the end result for those parents is the same--they are grieving, and they will never see their beloved child again.  Of course the memories parents are left with and have to learn to live with are different, depending upon how that child died.

   So although we typically avoid doing comparisons, we do feel it is appropriate for us to approach the subject of losing an only child.  The loss of an only child is neither greater nor less than the loss of one of many children; however, the loss of an only child is experienced differently.  It is different because you lose your parenthood, which is such a large part of the life of any parent.

   Because this is something rarely talked about in grief groups and in books, we decided to put together a brief overview of those things that impact your life as a parent who has lost an only child so you may better understand your feelings and reactions and how you might approach and handle some of these issues.  For instance, we mention below that the death of an only child highlights the issue of where parents will now leave their heirlooms.  For many parents in this situation, they have decided to leave their heirlooms to a charity, a beloved niece or nephew, or even a dear friend who has stood by them throughout their lives.  That is just one example.  Our intention is not to indicate in any way that somehow the death of an only child is worse than someone else's; rather, we want you to know that, in fact, there are differences and, once some of those are brought to your attention, you will have the choice of how to handle them.

   The death of your child exposes you to the most intense, complicated, and long-lasting grief known to humans. The loss is unlike any other, particularly because of the unique aspects of the parent-child relationship, the unrealistic social expectations that accompany it, and the fact that it often robs you of your most important source of support by affecting your spouse as well. Unfortunately, most people fail to see its critical differences from other losses and don’t understand that what is abnormal in those cases may be quite typical in the parental loss of a child.

   As a parent who loses an only child, you face the same issues as any grieving  parent, but you must do so in a vacuum of the parental role that is taken away with the death of the one child you had.

    When you lose an only child, your parental responsibilities end, as well as your parental gratifications. Even if you lose an adult child, this is true, for we never stop being the "parent" of our child, regardless of his or her age.  You must then contend with the total absence of your "former identity" as a parent. This can be tremendously disorganizing, confusing, and demoralizing.  You may even wonder whether or not you can or should still call yourself a parent.

   In addition, you may wonder to whom you will pass on your name and your heirlooms. There is no biological continuation of yourself, and your immortality has been taken away. You may never be a grandparent. There are no other children for whom you can make a pretense of the holidays, and there is no child for whom you can say, "I must go on for my child's sake."  Questions arise about who will take care of you as you get old and who will come to you on the holidays. These are just a few examples, and here is a list of others.
   
   1. With the death of an only child, you lose the one person who could use all of the love you had to give every day.

       a. One of the beautiful aspects of parenthood is that from birth, children
          teach us that we have a greater capacity for unselfish love than we
          thought possible. Parents often say that it was their child who taught
          them how to love.
       b. When your only child dies, you may feel that you are drowning in the
          parental love your heart continues to generate for the child you have
          lost. Sometimes parents say that they feel as if the love they used to
          give to their child has no meaningful outlet.

   2. With the death of an only child, you lose so much of your own future that was tied to your child's future.

      a.   The first day of school
      b.   Sports
      c.   Learning to drive
      d.   A first crush, a first date, a first heartbreak
      e.   High school
      f.   College
      g.   Career
      h.   Marriage
      i.   Grandchildren, great grandchildren
      j.   Moving close to your child during retirement years

   3. With the death of an only child, you suffer many tiny losses that cause pain only another parent in your shoes can comprehend.

      a.   You have lost the joy of checking the cereal aisle to see if Cocoa Puffs is on sale.
      b.   You have lost the reason to keep up with the top ten hits on the pop
          music charts.
      c.    You have lost the joy of caring what prize is in a box of Cracker
         Jacks.
      d.   You have lost the joy of getting up early on a Saturday morning for soccer, basketball, dance lessons, or exercise.
      e.   You have lost the reason to decorate for the holidays.
      f.   You have lost the person who thought you made the best cookies
         in the world, even though you didn't.
      g.   You may have not only lost your child, but the person you also
         considered to be your best friend. 
      h.   You have lost the reason to plan that "family" vacation.

   This is just a brief list, and we would love to hear from you regarding whatever you would like us to add to this list so that we continue to help others.  Please know that it is our stand that, regardless of the fact that you have lost your only child, you are and forever will be your child's parent.  Nothing changes that fact, even though you no longer need to care for and nurture your child in the ways you used to.  "If once a parent, always a parent."

   We are so sorry that this has happened to all of you and indelibly impacted your lives.  We are here for you, walking this journey alongside you in every way we can, and want you to know you are not alone.  We care.

A special thank you to all of the organizations and resources we used to put this compilation together,
6  Primary Message Board / Primary Board / Re: grieving grandma - this isn't like the death of a parent on: October 10, 2014, 06:40:52 PM
Part II

Don’t Be Surprised If Their Spiritual Beliefs Come Into Question

   For those who always embraced a specific faith and had certain beliefs, don’t be surprised if their child’s death brings everything they ever believed into question. They may be angry at God. They may withdraw from the spiritual community. Some do, and some don’t But if they do, they still need your love and support. Let them find their own way without showering them with platitudes, such as it was God’s will, God took their child home, God only takes the good ones, or God never makes mistakes. Though comforting at one time, those comments may not be comforting now.

   It is very common for grieving parents to experience an entire restructuring of their spirituality at some point after their child dies.

Change Your Expectations

   This is especially hard for friends, family, and co-workers to do, especially after time has gone by. What may seem like a long time to you is no time at all for the parents.

   By giving them freedom from what your expectations used to be, you will be helping them tremendously. For instance, if the parents always visited your home for the holidays, but now they don’t want to celebrate the holidays or be around anyone, let them know that is perfectly okay with you. They may need to do that for many years to come, and it still needs to be okay. If you invite them to do something and they agree, but cancel at the last minute, make it okay for them to do that, since they often do not know how they will feel until the last minute. If you find the parent angry, striking out or saying something hurtful, realize it’s not personal. They are confused and may often snap at things perceived as not helpful. You can think of many other examples, I am sure.

   In general, give grieving parents a lot of space to decide what is best for them at any given moment, and let them do this for as long as they need. Don’t be surprised if, even three or four years later, they still cannot bring their child to your child’s birthday party or come to your home for a holiday meal or listen to a group of parents talk about all of the wonderful things their children are doing.

 
Say the Child’s Name and Allow the Parents to Talk About Their Child

   Because someone has died does not mean they cease to be a part of our lives. The only thing that changes for parents when their child dies is that the child is no longer physically there. The same is true for siblings.

   Parents tell us, and it is true for me as well, that one of the most hurtful things people do is stop talking about their child or go silent when the parent brings the child up in conversation. This is maddening, heart breaking, and really doesn’t make sense. If the child were alive and their name were brought up, the room would not go silent. Mothers and fathers will always be that child’s parents, and siblings will always be the brothers and sisters. 

   When parents are asked how many children they have, they almost always give the complete number, including the child who died. When I am asked, I always say I have one child, her name is Erika, and she died 11 years ago. I never say I “had” one child or say I have no children. Siblings will do the same thing when asked. You, too, need to help them keep that child’s memory alive forever. If the parent brings up a story about their child in the midst of everyone else telling stories, make sure you deal with it the same way you would if that child were still alive. You can even share a story you have about the child, or you can simply respond by saying something like, “I remember that,” or “He was so cute in that way.” In other words, make saying the child’s name and keeping the child’s memory alive as organic and natural as possible.

Remember the Grieving Siblings

   Once a young boy told me a story. His brother died in a car accident, and everyone was flocking to the home to give their love and support. As he stood in the entryway of their home, people would rush by him to hug and console his parents.

   Children grieve, too.

   All children, unless older  in life, have a hard time understanding this new pain they are feeling and seeing it everywhere around them. They need to be included in all of the love and support you give to the parents. Give them hugs. Tell them you care and are sorry about their brother or sister. Help to ease their burden of not only their own grief, but of watching their parents in such pain.

   Children often release their grief through play, hobbies, and activities. You can invite them to do things with your children. Of course, no one should ever force the children to do something they don’t want to do at this time (the parents will receive education about how best to deal with the child’s grief). Your invitations will help the children get back to a routine of life, and that is very important, especially for young children.

   You may read more about children and their grief on our website.

      Educate Yourself and Your Children How to Act Around the Sibling

         Siblings of all ages tell us how, once they return to “life,” they feel as I they are the “weird one,” the one whose brother or sister died, and that they feel strange, ostracized, and as if no one else in the world understands what they are going through. No one can possibly understand, except for another grieving sibling. However, that does not exclude the fact that people who are educated about grief and what to do to help siblings of different ages can and do become a beautiful part of the healing process for siblings. So educate yourselves about what to do and say with children of all ages, and teach your children as well. You can find much more about this on our website. We also have a plethora of written material you may request, as well as books we recommend on our website. One great book for children is Children Grieve, Too by Lauren Schneider, MSW.

Remember the Grieving Grandparents and Other Family Members

   It is very difficult for parents to see their own children in the such throes of such pain. On top of that, they, as the parent of that grieving mother or father and grandparent of that child, are grieving too. Their job as a parent was always to try and make things better. Now they can’t. The worst has happened. Yet they are grieving, too. This is true for other family members as well.

Learn What to Say and What Not to Say

   See the suggestions below.

Be In touch

   One of the ways you can stay in touch with parents is by a simple email or phone call, without any expectation of a return reply. You can say something from your heart on the anniversary of the child’s death, his or her birthday, holidays, and even just any ole day.  Some of the best emails and calls I received were and still are when it wasn’t any particularly special day, but there it was anyway--an email from someone saying they were thinking about Erika or proud of the work we do or anything nice. Just to know that they hadn’t forgotten meant so much and always will. A short phone call where you just leave a message is nice, too. You can say, “No need to call back. Just want you to know I am thinking of you and (the child’s name), as well as everyone in your family. I care.”

   Keep in mind that, when you do write, be mindful of not talking too much about all of the wonderful things your children are doing. Of course you would not do that right in the beginning, but later down the road, when it’s still raw for the parents, it’s easy to forget. The parents may even ask you, as part of a general conversation, how your kids are. Sometimes they sincerely want all of the details, and other times a simple, “They are all fine. Thanks for asking” is enough. If the parents want to know more details, they can ask, and then you can give them.

   Just make sure you do not abandon them now and forever more. It gets harder and harder for the parents as time ticks onward and everyone else gets back to life as usual. There is always a lot of attention and sharing in the first few months, but after a year and then two, people tend to think the parents are fine and no longer need love and support. They will always need a hug, to hear their child’s name, and to know you haven’t forgotten.


 
In the Middle
(After Two Years)

Continue to Allow Parents to Grieve Their Own Way

   What I mean by this is that, after two years, it may still be difficult for parents to attend birthday parties, see children going into middle school or high school as their child would have been, to be a part of a group celebration anywhere, and to want to engage in certain activities. For some parents, this change continues on forever; for others, and this is usually the case, they slowly and eventually return to some form of engaging. For instance, a parent whose very young child died may not be able to attend any holiday celebrations where the rest of the family is gathered with all of their children, exchanging gifts and generally happy to be together. That may continue for one year, three years, five years, or forever. However, the parents may end up creating new approaches to the holidays that they participate in forever or they may eventually return to family functions as they figure out how to cope.

   Parents might not be able to be a part of any events that involve your children because it is just too painful of a reminder of the child that died. They may, eventually, return to being able to do that. It is all very individual. Because Erika had just married, it was years before I could attend a wedding or baby shower. Now I am able to do so. Instead, I would send my regrets and send a gift. Those who lovingly understood and gave me the space to figure it all out are today some of the best friends I have.

Continue With No Expectations

   Allow the parents to continue along their own timetable without pressuring them or putting any “shoulds” on them. With your love and support, and the space you will give them, they will find their way of coping much faster than if they are doing something for you out of obligation or guilt. You see, it is by trying various things that the parents learn what does and does not work. Yet they cannot make the path of discovery if those around them become obstacles.

Invite Them to Things You Think They Might Enjoy

   But don’t be upset if they aren’t ready. Just including them in life will help the parents start to embrace life again and see that there are good things in the world, there is hope for joy and happiness again, and that they do have friends who care…forever.

Say the Child’s Name and Talk About the Child

   It doesn’t matter how many years go by, the child needs to be remembered and be a part of life and conversations for the rest of the parents’ lives. Again, although their child is not physically here, they are forever their child, brother, sister, grandchild, niece or nephew. Death can never take that away. Parents tell us one of the most upsetting things is that, when time has gone by, people seem to forget and stop talking about their child. This is very painful for them.
 
Ask Them What They Need

   Whereas before we suggested you simply either let parents know what you will be doing or just do it, during this time we suggest you ask the parents what it is that they need or want help with. (This can actually start into the second year, as most parents by then are becoming more aware of what does and does not help them.)

Keep in Touch

   Continue with emails, phone calls, or handwritten notes through time. Even a text message is meaningful. Just a simple, “Thinking of you today,” or “I care,” or “I love you,” is very beautiful, especially on the anniversary of the child’s death, the holidays (remember Mother’s and Father’s days), and the child’s birthday.

   Again, be sensitive to too much information surrounding all of the wonderful things your children are into and doing, unless the parent asks for specifics. This is a generality, of course, because there are those at this point who sincerely want the details. You will need to gauge this one based on your relationship. Just follow your intuition or ask the parent if they have a preference. A mother with whom I facilitate grief groups asked me once if talking about her son and all of the wonderful things going on with him was hard for me, and I answered honestly that it was. She realized that she had plenty of other people with whom she could share about her son and didn’t need to give me all of the details, especially about marriage and grandchildren and being with them during the holidays.

   You might be thinking, “Well at what point do you, as the grieving mother, learn that life goes on and people talk about their children? Do people have to tiptoe around you forever?” The answer is that it will never be easy for me to hear people talk about their children and the joys of being a grandparent. However, I have learned to handle it graciously when it does occur, and I sincerely want to know about my friends’ children and what they are doing. This will be true for others as they figure it out for themselves. Some will love to hear all of the wonderful things right away, and others will need more time.

IN THE END
(There is no end)

   This grief has no beginning, middle, and end really. As I said earlier, it’s not like having the flu. So there truly is no “end” to the journey. The journey lasts a lifetime and changes and transforms as the labor involved is undertaken. It is a relentless process for the first few years. The saying that time heals all wounds is really not true. It is what you DO with the time that matters. And parents and siblings have quite a journey ahead of them. But they will not take it alone because of you and because we at griefHaven will walk with them every step of the way.

   Parents and others often want to know, “When will this suffering end?”  “When will we get back to our normal lives?” “When…?” The only truthful answer is the obvious one, and that is that life after a child dies never returns to what it used to be. That does not mean, however, that it won’t be a good life, a meaningful life, and a life filled with joy and laughter. It will. It just takes time, hard work, and lots and lots of love. Parents will need to commit to putting in, as we say it, “the hours” and make the commitment to one day engaging in life again. Now is when they are ready to do that. Seems like a long time, doesn’t it? It is. One day we all, grieving parents and siblings, create what is called our “new normal.” So the goal  once a child dies is not to find an “end” to the process, but rather to find out how to embrace life again.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

   Eventually the gut-wrenching pain that was there in the beginning starts to soften around the edges, new memories are made, families create new relationships with their child who died, new coping skills are discovered, and the parents begin to ever so slowly and gently start to see a pinpoint of light at the end of their dark and bleak tunnel. Sometimes they don’t even know it is there until they look back and remember that time last week when they actually laughed and truly felt it, or when they saw a bird bathing itself and felt a moment of joy, or when their child did or said something sweet and it touched them. These are examples of how the moments of joy and happiness start to break through the darkness that has enshrouded them for so long. And when they do, they will remember you and be forever grateful that, in their darkest of hours, you were there. “Were you a positive and loving influence in that darkness?”

   Everyone impacted by the death of a child realizes that the journey will take them to places they never imagined they would go. This is especially true for the parents and siblings. As the parents look ahead of them on that journey, they will see footprints of others who have already traveled many, many miles ahead of them and who have paved the way for them. As they look beside them, they will hopefully see you. As they look behind them, they will see others who will need them one day.

   Every step of the way, griefHaven is there.

What to Say?

   When a child dies, most people want to say something to the parents. However, what typically happens is that people either end up saying something inappropriate without knowing they are doing so, or they don’t say anything at all for fear of saying the wrong thing. Either of these approaches causes parents to feel isolated, sad, upset, and frustrated.

   We have made it easy for you with our outline below. We have compiled a list of often said comments in the “sad” column and what would be better said in the “happy” column. The good news?  You only have to remember a few things to say the right things! We hope this is helpful to you.

   Thank you for caring enough to learn how you can be a loving presence in the lives of grieving parents and siblings. Please give us the honor of supporting you and those you love as you make the journey.

 
  SAD IF THESE ARE SAID

I know how you feel.”
“Time heals all wounds.”
“At least she’s no longer in pain.”
 “It must have been her time.”
“How are you?” (This one drives parents crazy.)
“God only takes the best ones.”
“Be thankful because it could have been worse.”
“Be strong.”
“Don’t cry.”
“It’s time for you to get on with life.”
“Death is part of life.”
“You need to put this behind you so you can go on.”
“Don’t think about that.” or “Think of the good times.”
“She’s in a better place.”
“He’s the lucky one. We are stuck here.”
“Your grief is keeping her from going onward.”
 “There’s nothing you can do about it.”
“What choice do you have? You have to get on with life.”
“When you feel sad, get busy and do something.”
“What really happened?”
 “I know. When my mother died…when my father died…when
   my pet died…”
“He would not want you to be unhappy.”
“You were lucky to have had her at all.”
“Thank God you have other children.”
“At least you knew that kind of love.”
 “You can always have more children.”
“Have you thought of adopting…getting a pet?”
““God called him home.” 
“You are still crying?”
 “You will see her again one day.” 
 “Don’t worry, you will eventually feel better.”
“Something good always comes out of every tragedy.”

  HAPPY IF THESE ARE SAID

“I know I can never know your pain.”
“I know I can’t make your pain go away. I just wish I could.”
“I can’t imagine what you are going through.”
 “I am so sorry.”
“I miss her, too.”
“I feel…” (sad, helpless, etc.)
“I was thinking about you today.”
“I was thinking about (child’s name) today.”
“I was remembering that time…” (special memory)
“I won’t say for you to call me if you need anything. I’ll be in touch with you.” (Be sure to always keep your promises.)
 “How are you right now?” or “What did you do today?”
7  Primary Message Board / Primary Board / Re: grieving grandma - this isn't like the death of a parent on: October 10, 2014, 06:39:49 PM
Dearest Cindy: (Part I of response here. Part II in second email response.)

What can I do? What can I say? Too many people don't ask that question before making comments, and the answers are so easily accessible right on our website and other places. Everyone thinks they understand grief and know what's best for someone else, even though they most often don't. One of my greatest passions is "getting out there" and educating the public about grief.

Here is a document we give out to people and that is also available right on our website. I have to put part of it in a second document for you because the entire email is too long otherwise. So this is part of it. This document lets others know how to help someone who is grieving, what to say, and what not to say. Even though it mentions "child" in the document, it applies to most people who are grieving.

Everyone feel free to go to our website and share the document entitled "What Can I Do? What Can I Say?" Since I can't attach the actual document here, I am copied its contents below. Please share this with your friend.

Love and hugs,
Erika's Mom, Susan

What Can I Do?
What Can I Say?

www.griefHaven.org

by Susan Whitmore, Erika’s Mom
Founder & President, Grief Specialist   

   There are numerous topics regarding grief that are rarely discussed in an open forum for all to hear, yet it is that very type of sharing that helps bring people together at what is the worst time in a person’s life. After all, how can we support someone in the way they most need support if we aren’t current on how to deal with grief and don’t know what to say or what to do? This is especially true when the subject is the death of a child—a subject that is every parent’s worst nightmare.
 
   All specialties across the board agree—nothing compares to the death of a child.  As parents travel the rocky and challenging path of grief, they need to be supported in ways that will assist them instead of hinder them. After all, the path that lies before them is the most difficult journey they will ever have to take, and it is a very long journey. Friends, families, colleagues, and communities are almost always left with little information on how to best provide the most current, healthy, loving and compassionate support specific to the death of a child. Without an accurate understanding of the grief process or a compass to show the way, those who want to provide appropriate support tend to rely on their own past experiences regarding loss or what they’ve heard “through the grapevine.” More often than not, those approaches end up leaving the grieving parent feeling misunderstood, alone, and hopeless.

   The death of a child is so life-altering, shocking, and traumatic that it often rips families and friends apart at the very time when they most need to be comforted, supported, and brought together. It’s sad to think of loved ones at the worst time in their lives drifting apart instead of coming together, yet it happens regularly (for more important information, please read The Parent Journey newsletter, April-June 2012 edition). We want to make sure that does not happen, and education is the key.

   So what can you do and say?

   We have compiled an overview of what you, as the support person, can do now and going into the future to be a positive part of the griever’s journey. It is good to also remember that the support person is often traumatized by the child’s death as well, so many of the grieving principles here also apply to the supporter. Specialists, neighbors, on-site first responders, clergy, and many others often find they, too, need to receive personal support.

Our focus here is mainly on grieving parents. The grief process after the death of a child lasts a very long time. In fact, it never really ends, but it does take on new forms as the parents learn how to rebuild their lives without their child and eventually embrace life again. This is the hardest thing a parent will ever be asked to do. You, as the support person, can make a huge difference as the parents work to create their new lives. Of course, this is by no means a complete compilation. For more details about parents and how to support siblings, please visit our website.

In the Beginning
(The First Two Years)

Recognize There Are No Timelines and No “Stages” of Grief

   So many people think they know when a grieving parent should be “better,” “acting differently,” “getting out more,” “not visiting the cemetery as much,” “changing the child’s room,” “no longer crying as much,” or “attending events.” Grief after the death of a child or sibling does not come with a nice, neat timeline. When a child dies, the time it takes to reach various milestones in the grieving process are much longer than with other losses.

   Don’t be surprised if the parents are still crying every day in six to 12 months from now or even well into the second year. They may cry at the mention of certain things, during holidays, when they see something that reminds them of their child, when they hear certain songs, when they see someone with their healthy children, when people talk about all of the things their children are doing, or at the drop of a hat for no apparent reason. These are all normal and okay.

   Grief is like a rollercoaster ride, and does not follow in a linear fashion. Having the flu follows in a linear fashion, but not grief. People are up, they are down, they are okay one minute, and sobbing the next. This is normal and goes on for a very, very long time.

   Give the parents and children space to find their way, and fill that space with your patience and love.

Remember That All Children Who Die Have a Parent

   One of the mistakes often made is forgetting that someone who is in their 40s, 50s, 60s, or even 70s is someone’s child, and that parent is very likely alive and grieving. We need to remember that, regardless of how old a parent becomes, their grief is just as difficult and painful as that for younger parents. We regularly work with parents in their 70s, 80s, and 90s who have lost a child. They are often forgotten as real grievers. For those seven adults who lost their lives in Newtown, there are older parents who are grieving for them, too. Newtown actually lost 27 children on Friday, December 14.

Let Them Grieve In Their Own Way

   Everyone grieves differently. If you respect the parent’s way of dealing with the child’s death, you will find that you help them tremendously. The death of a child doesn’t come with a “how to” manual. Each person is a unique individual and their reaction to the death of their child will also be unique, not only because of the relationship with the child, but also in response to the cause of death.

   Even though there is a list of common reactions to the death of a child (which you can see directly on our website), what is different for various parents are the memories with which they must learn to live, and that is often based on the reason the child died. For instance, we were here at home with Erika when she died. I was holding her and kissing her face as she took her last breath. Many parents whose children died when they were not with them will often say to me, “I wish I had been with my child.” However, for us, watching our child die was extremely traumatic, and it took many years for me to be able to think about it without falling apart. Those who were not with their children at the time of death have other things they wonder and worry about, such as whether their child was scared, why they weren’t there to protect them, and wondering if they suffered. We parents often create images of what we think it might have been like for our children, whether we were there or not, and those images play as endless loops over and over in our minds. Siblings also go through a very similar process. This process helps the brain create new pathways so that the person can eventually learn how to live with the memories. The same is true with talking about their child over and over again. This helps them find coping skills and actually changes the grieving brain.

   So no two people grieve exactly the same, and we need to respect the various ways a person is dealing with the death of their child. We cannot always know what is going on inside a broken heart by what is manifesting outwardly.

Avoid Making Judgments

   It’s easy to judge how you think a grieving parent, or anyone for that matter, “should” be acting or what they “should” be doing. Yet grief, especially in the United States, is one of the most misunderstood human experiences. The lack of understanding and education surrounding grief is abundant. People often make judgments about how a person is acting when they are grieving.

   Again, remember that no two people grieve the same way, and what works for one person might not work for another. For instance, a mother might be crying every day, all day, screaming, wailing, falling to the floor, or she might be withdrawn, sad, and not wanting to be around others. A father might be angry, crying quietly with tears rolling down his face, doing all of his major releasing while driving in the car, in the shower, or through activities. These examples may seem a little stereotyped, but there are regularly seen differences between the way men and women grieve. Of course, as with everything, exceptions always apply.  

   To support the grieving person, avoid judging their way of expressing their pain. The best thing they can do is to get what is inside of them out, and you can just be there with them quietly, loving them and letting them know you care. If you find it is too painful for you or it scares you, then find those ways that you can be supportive.

Let Go of Trying to Change Their Feelings or Actions

   A normal reaction to seeing someone in terrible pain is to want to fix it or make it better. Work to accept that there isn’t anything you can do to make them “hurt less.” Grief is a normal, healthy response and process to the death of someone you love, and the pain that follows the death of a child is beyond description. So let go of any notion that “you” have to “do” something to minimize or stop their grief. You can’t, it’s not healthy to try, and parents have expressed that it makes it worse when someone does try. For instance, avoid these things: trying to be funny (or doing anything that appears as if you are not okay with the way the griever is feeling); keeping the grieving parent busy; changing the subject or going silent altogether when they are talking about their feelings or their child; pretending you don’t see them in public because you are uncomfortable or don’t know what to say (they almost always know when you do this); avoiding talking about the child because you are afraid bringing him or her up will upset the parents. It won’t, but I guarantee not talking about the child will upset the parents. Those are examples of the types of things that regularly happen with parents and that make their grief worse.  

   What you can do is this: just “be” with the parent when they are grieving. Share your own feelings about the child’s death, such as, “My heart aches for you. I wish there were something I could do.” or “I care so much,” or “I miss Joey too. I remember him running down the street with his friends,” or “She will never be forgotten.” Those types of comments are real and come from your heart. Also, just listen. Listen. Listen. Listen. Also, cry with the parent. You don’t need to be stoic. Your tears will not upset the parent. Quite to the contrary, your tears show them that they are not alone. We often hear that crying with someone is healing for the parents and siblings. This also applies to grandparents and other family members.

   As part of trying to help parents and siblings, avoid trying to help them see some kind of “silver lining” in their lives, such as pointing out all of the “blessings” the parents still have. For instance, you would want to avoid saying things like, “You have other beautiful children” or “At least you had her for seven years” or “She’s in a better place” or even “You need to be strong.” What is true strength anyway? We would say that it takes real strength to feel the pain, deal with it on a daily basis, and let it be expressed in whatever way works. That is true strength.

   Crying after the death of someone we love is as natural and healthy as coughing is when you get something caught in your throat. Our bodies and minds help us release what is inside that needs to come out. If someone were choking, you wouldn’t say, “Please stop that! It’s annoying me.” No, you would offer them help. The same holds true for tears.

    The reason it is hurtful to a parent when they perceive someone is not okay with their grief or is trying to change them is because the message received is this: You aren’t doing it the right way, I am going to help you feel better, or I am not okay with how you are grieving and I want to make it different.  

Do Practical, Loving Things Without Be Asked

   This is especially true in the first several months. Since you don’t know what to do, you might tend to want to ask the newly-grieving parent what you should do or what they need. Most likely, they are in such shock and feel such a depth of pain that they have no idea how to answer your question—they have no idea what they need. So here are some practical suggestions. By you presenting them with what you can/will do, they can easily say yes or no:

   Let them know you will pick their children up, drive them to school, and bring them home; drop meals off or gather a group of people together and figure out who will provide what meal what day and time of the week; pick up their laundry and take it to your home to do; write checks to pay their bills if they are okay with that; make phone calls and handle issues that were on their plates before their child died; water their garden; take out their trash and bring it back; clean their house; walk their dog; don’t talk to the media if you feel the parent would be upset by that.

   This is an area where you can be creative. Just think what it is that you might need and appreciate at such a time in your life, and then offer that.

Part II in next email response.












8  Primary Message Board / Primary Board / A New Year Is Here - Message From Susan Whitmore, Erika's Mom, Founder & Pres. on: January 01, 2013, 02:59:04 AM
Hi Everyone.  Susan Whitmore here.

Before Wendell and I head off to sleep, I had to take a moment and reach out to each and every one of you.  I care about you all dearly.  I feel as if I know each one of you either through your postings, the requests you send for a Packet and Hope and what you share in those requests, the emails I receive, and through Facebook.  I read absolutely everything!  I mostly don't have time to reply to postings.  One day I look forward to having an assistant.  Ah, to dream... Right now we depend upon volunteers.  They are so wonderful to us, and the love and support that is generated in this office would really amaze you.

I often pray for guidance and knowledge to come my way that will help you on your journeys.  Often that prayer is answered, and then I get the gift of sharing it with you.  I so wish we were all close together so we could meet, and I could share the knowledge and tools I've learned over the years.  I try to bring it to you through the newsletters and Facebook, but much of it simply needs to be shared in person.  I am hoping to take our three-day workshop on the road this year.  We had planned it for last year, but with the economy still slow, donations were not as forthcoming.  I know it will work out when it is supposed to.  And THEN...here we come!  If you would like us to come to your city and provide a workshop, let me know.  You would simply need to gather the people.  Our griefHaven workshops are unlike anything you've ever done before and includes an enormous variety of information about grief.

We have a new section of griefHaven you might have read about called Friends of griefHaven.  It was started by a group of women and men in the city where we live, Pacific Palisades, CA, who watched Portraits of Hope, read articles in various local newspapers and magazines about griefHaven, and were deeply moved by our work so much so that they decided to align themselves with us and become the Los Angeles-based section that provides fundraising ideas and puts on events, gives us volunteer help when we need it, and uses their incredible connections to get the word out about who we are and what we do. They created their first event in October 2012 when we had a spectacular luncheon with producer/director extraordinaire Roko Belic as our speaker. You MUST get his DVD, Happy. It truly changed the trajectory of my grief, and I use the information from Happy in all of my work. You can order it right on our website.

So much has been happening since Friends of griefHaven had their first meeting.  If you would like to start your own Friends of griefHaven in your area, please contact me personally to discuss how it would work.  I know, when and if you were ready, you would find it creative, interesting, and very meaningful. 

Of course you know that we are making plans to travel to Newtown either the end of January or, hopefully, first part of February.  I will keep you posted on that. We will be there for them now and for the rest of their lives.

If you are planning to donate to griefHaven, don't forget!  Those of you who have received support and hope from us know the difference it makes.  We have SO much more we can do if we have the funds to do so.  Even if you live in another country, it is very easy to donate through PayPal.  We receive donations from all over the world, and remember that every amount is fantastic!  It all adds up.  Just as an example, one free Packet of Hope costs us about $17 to put together and mail, and we send about 150 of them every month.  If someone calls on the phone and needs to talk, that costs $65 for the hour, and we regularly talk to people all over for no charge. Well, the list goes on and on, and we always want you to have everything you could possibly need, as we have lost our children, too, and are right there with you.

Here's to a New Year. Let's embrace life and find what works for us to experience moments of joy and happiness. It's just a heartbeat away. I promise.

Your friend forever,
Susan Whitmore, Erika's Mom
Founder & President
Grief Specialist
9  Primary Message Board / Primary Board / Re: First birthday without my only child on: January 01, 2013, 02:33:21 AM
Kathleen,

Have we sent you a free Packet of Hope?  If not, PLEASE go to the home page of this website and order one.  There is a lot of information in it that will help you.

I am so sorry for the pain.  Erika would have been 42 last June, and it's been 11 years since she died.  There are times I still cannot fathom that I have an entire life without her.  But we are here for you, and, as you know, there is so much love.

By the way, there are a few good books that you might find helpful.  I have read SO many books about the death of a child.  The few that I found most helpful are:  The Worst Loss by Barbara Rosoff; Seven Choices by Dr. Elizabeth Neeld (this is actually not about the death of a child, but it is such a fantastic book on grief that I use it regularly in all of my speaking engagements, and the contents helped me tremendously); To Begin Again by Naomi Levy.  Those are just a few.

Of course, I am sure you have heard a thousand times--the firsts are so difficult. The truth is that the holidays and special days are difficult, period.  Yet, as you create new memories and try different approaches to what you used to do, you will find what works to make those days less painful.  The goal is to find the things you can do to minimize your sadness and sorrow and not create more than you already have.  You will, and all of us will walk with you.

Sending you much love.
Erika's Mom
Susan Whitmore
Founder & President
10  Primary Message Board / Primary Board / Re: Grave Marker Advice Needed on: January 01, 2013, 02:26:58 AM
Hi.  Please read the January-March 2012 Parent Journey newsletter.  We dedicated that newsletter to grave markers and uniquely designed stones.  Harriet Zaretsky's article specifically lists the name of a place where she designed alongside an artist the marker for her son, Dillon Henry.  Dillon was an avid surfer, and her marker is absolutely incredible.  Harriet highly recommends the organization she worked with.  This will especially be great for you if money is not an option.

Please keep me/us posted on how it goes and what you end up with.  It would be really nice if you posted something on our Facebook page, along with the final photo of the marker you design, once it's done.

I hope you and your family have a softer 2013.

Love and hugs,
Susan Whitmore, Erika's Mom
Founder & President
11  Primary Message Board / Primary Board / Re: Deep sadness for loss of children in Newtown tragedy on: January 01, 2013, 02:21:24 AM
Everyone feels what you feel.  It can be such a frustrating experience when you know the pain the parents and others are going through, what the grief journey is, and then wonder what you can possibly do to help.  I go through this almost daily, since griefHaven regularly receives phone calls, emails, and letters asking us to reach out to a specific family or community or even first responders in situations where one child dies or many.  What helps is to either do something, even if it's just a small thing, as you suggested here, like lighting a candle OR knowing that there is an enormous outpouring of love and that those families will not be abandoned and left alone because griefHaven will be there.

We have been gearing up for several years to train other grief specialists besides myself to be able to provide the type of grief counseling unique to us, which is a very different approach than most.  We are now there.  As you know, we are working with some leaders in Newtown to travel there at the end of January or first part of February to provide grief groups, one-on-one counseling, workshops/presentations to help the community understand the death of a child and how to support the families now and as the months and years tick onward, and presentations to specialists.  I have  put together a letter to Rabbi Praver, along with a package of materials and suggestions of what we will do when we arrive and bring with us.  As you know, it is the period "after" all of the world's shock dies down, everyone goes back to their routines, and the families are left standing there wondering, "Now what?"  That is when we want to be there.

Rest assured our collective grief and concern is felt by those who live there.  One thing that helps me at times like this is remembering that I have not only survived the death of my beautiful daughter, Erika Whitmore Godwin, but gone on to create a meaningful, happy, and loving life filled with friends who "get it" and care.  It was not in the least bit easy, and, of course, like the rest of you I miss her terribly and still have my moments where I cry.  But I've gotten here with a lot of trial and error, reading every book I could get my hands on regarding grief, receive education and training about grief, working with the "grieving brain" through studies at UCLA, and trying various grief techniques to figure out what does and doesn't work so I could bring them to you.  I just care so darn much.

Sending you all my love.  Susan Whitmore, Founder & President
12  Primary Message Board / Primary Board / Speaking Engagements in New York and Florida - Checking In With All Of You on: July 10, 2012, 08:14:46 PM
Hi, Everyone.  Well, we are baaaccckkk!!!!  And the griefHaven office is open once again, although nothing really stops when we leave town, because we do everything we do here, but from the road instead.

Just wanted to check in with everyone and let you know my presentations in both New York and Florida were wonderful.  Please check out FaceBook to see some photos.

In Buffalo, New York, Wendell and I arrived two days early so I could check out the presentation room and the set-up, and then we took a day trip to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. It is beautiful and powerful to behold.

I gave my all-day presentation for the Roswell Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York on June 9 in front of a room filled with chaplains and other specialists who work regularly with parents whose children have died.  My presentation included four sections and PowerPoint slides that were, if I do say so myself, pretty great.  The categories were:  What Is Grief?; How Did We Get Where We Are (which was a historical overview about grief and the death of a child starting with the 15th Century and moving forward)?; The Grieving Brain (the latest information using functional MRIs to look into the brain of people who are grieving to see what is happening and what works to help them/us); and, What Can You Do to Help?

From there Wendell and I went on a vacation for 17 days and then flew directly to Florida where I presented two one-hour workshops for grieving parents. 

Being in Florida with all of those grieving parents at one time was enlightening and deeply meaningful. The BP of the USA did a great job putting the event together, and Wendell and I had  a wonderful time meeting so many beautiful parents from all over.

Needless to say, we were so relieved and happy to get home to our own bed, shower, garden, and way of life.  It's nice to get away (something I never thought I would be able to do again and actually enjoy myself, but I do; I was wrong), but there is no place like home.

Please tell us how you are all doing, what you are doing, and where you are at this point.

With much love always,
Erika's Mom, Susan Whitmore
Founder & President
Grief Specialist
13  Primary Message Board / Primary Board / Re: Today is July 10, 2012 on: July 10, 2012, 07:59:28 PM
Thanks for doing that!  We were wondering what is going on, since there aren't any posts for such along time.  I think people are vacationing or busy with summer?  Anyway, thanks for checking.

Where are you all?  We miss you!

Love,
Susan
14  Primary Message Board / Primary Board / Question From griefHaven Founder - Susan Whitmore on: May 26, 2012, 10:49:09 PM
Hi, Everyone.  I continue to read all of your posts, as do thousands of others around the world, and gain so much from each one of you.  YOU help me on MY journey, too.

I have a question for you and need your advice, input, and suggestions if you would please.

I am doing an all-day presentation on June 8 in Buffalo, New York for the Roswell Park Cancer Institute's yearly conference. In attendance will be clergy, hospice caregivers, medical students, thanatologists, nurses, and all sorts of other specialists.  Of course my topic is what is grief, how have we gotten to the place where we are today with all of the misunderstandings about grief and grief support, and what they can do to support grieving parents and siblings.

Would you please share with me any of your suggestions regarding experiences you have had with a religious leader who might have done or said something you found not helpful, anything you would suggest I impart to those in attendance as ways of being able to help you, etc.?

I really appreciate all of your input and will use all of it.  If you want to talk to me personally, please email me at:  swhitmore@griefHaven.org.

With lots of love,

Susan Whitmore, Erika's Mom


Founder & President
15  Primary Message Board / Primary Board / Adding Your Child's Photo to the griefHaven Facebook Page on: February 13, 2012, 08:41:18 PM
Hi, Everyone.

As Mike posted last week, you can now add photos of your wonderful, amazing child right on our Facebook page.  I posted one of Erika to get it started, and now I really want to see and meet and get to know you and all of your children.  It's a great way for everyone to meet them.  We want to make sure they are never, ever forgotten.  Here is how you do it.  Print these instructions out.  It sounds harder than it really is.  Believe me, if I can do it, anyone can!

Sending my love,
Susan

First, you'll need to have a Facebook account
Next go to http://www.facebook.com/griefHaven
In the middle of the page near the top you will see a box that says "write something"
just above that you will see "Share: Post-Photo-Link-Video"
*Click on Photo
*Click on upload photo
*Click on choose file
*Find the photo and double-click on it (it will start loading)
*Underneath where it says "Say something about this photo," write something
*Click on share

If anyone has any questions or problems, please feel free to contact me & I'll try & help.
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